Do subtleties matter?


Today I happened to be sitting at the piano thinking about my music and scribbling in my practice notebook. I came upon a thought. Do subtleties matter? Or are they just extra touches we add that affect only ourselves and other musicians who listen to us?

My take on this subject is something that shows some of my thoughts as a fledgling musician. I believe that even though the listeners may not be able to hear the subtleties consciously, they will feel the subtleties through their body unconsciously. I think the best way to illustrate this would be to go to the ballet classes that I watched some time ago. The dancers were dancing to a classical music recording. At the second or third variation that the pianist in the recording played, it sounded as though he or she became bored or tired. At this point I noticed that the dancers all started to look tired. A few yawned and acted as though they were tired. Despite the fact that the pianist was decent technically, this tiredness left the music empty, dull, and lifeless like a wet rag hanging on a tree. The dancers quite obviously thought it was they who were tired. A few marked in passing how much more they should have slept the past evening. I would instead give my opinion that it was not they who were tired. They were passionate and energetic just minutes before. Instead, they were feeling the subtleties in the music strongly.

I also believe that in many ways, subtleties must be felt by the musician and passed into the music, and the musician must be sensitive to this. A teacher can guide you in interpretation, yet you must feel the music for yourself and make it yours. My teacher said one thing that I will always remember, “Some things must be felt, they cannot be taught, and this is one of them.” He was referring to a subtle element in my music as well as to my interpretation, and I can certainly appreciate the weight of this quotation. In my younger days when I was just a little bunny, I noticed that there was some music that made me feel a certain way. I didn’t know what gave me this feeling back then, but I know now. As a more knowledgeable individual, I now listen to the recordings and I can feel the passion of the musicians through the way they feel the music through their interpretation.

Music is life!


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